Did I call “She” the worst episode ever? That judgment still stands, but “Eternity” does make a worthy run for the cup and leaves me yearning for the relative fun and coherence of “The Ring.” There’s an awful lot to hate about this episode, but I’ll focus the outrage-inducing departure from established mythology. Angel is good because he has a soul. He loses his soul when/if he experiences a moment of perfect happiness. So, the euphoria of drug use qualifies as perfect happiness? Okaaay, that’s a big stretch, but I’ll bite… except why does Angel regain his soul once the drugs wear off? The curse is pretty specific about the whole “moment” thing, there’s nothing there about the soul returning when he gets cranky. I’m pretty sure that’s backed up by the fact that Angelus didn’t spend season two is some sort of euphoric orgy.
Maybe this isn’t Angelus, just an uninhibited version of Angel. I could buy the idea that Angel’s coping with barely restrained bloodlust; Boreanaz’s performance is certainly a far cry from the calculating monster we love to hate. That’s not really a good thing, as he just comes off as confused about how to play this. Worse, the show goes out of its way to emphasize that this really is Angelus. The episode serves as a cliff’s notes for anyone who never saw Buffy’s second season; the words “perfect happiness” were used more times than I can count. Wes’s insistence that “this isn’t real” only serves to confuse the issue and leave us wondering just what the hell it is.
How is it that a fantasy-horror series built on twisting the genre’s conventions could induce such outrage by playing fast and loose with its own lore? Because it’s still, at its core, a fantasy-horror series and much as its fans are smart enough to follow it to strange new places, there are certain conventions we aren’t willing to give up. Namely, that fantasy worlds still have to have their own internal logic. It’s an old requirement, near the front of How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, magic needs to have rules. I can see why “rules” might be a dirty word in the M.E. writing room, but creative freedom without creative structure is nonsense… which is about the only word to describe what happens to Angel here. We know why he’s a “good vampire” and what circumstances could lead his becoming a “bad vampire.” These things are kinda important to how we understand the character.
I might be more forgiving of this blithe disregard for the established universe if it had been used to take us somewhere good. As it stands, this isn’t the Angelus we love to hate. Yes, we’ve got some of the old verbal sadism going on, but his torment of Buffy (and Spike) was far more subtle. The Angelus we know is a poet of pain, this guys just seems like a standup comic.
I’d also be more forgiving if the buildup was better. Did anyone feel much sympathy for whatshername? Did anyone believe for a second that she and Angel had this instant connection? And that it could be so strong he’d be remotely tempted to sleep with her?
Cordy and Wes at least had solid moments in defeating fake-Angelus, although that only serves to further undermine his status as a villain.
This episode really just strikes me as an ill-conceived effort to shoe-horn Angelus into the season. Yes, the evil alter-ego is something that we all want to see, but you need to do it right or not do it at all.